The Newspaper Works has cautioned against accepting a heavy handed framework of content regulation that has been outlined by the final report of the Australian Government’s Convergence Review, released today.
The newspaper industry believes press freedom is potentially threatened by a regulatory approach in which the performance of a proposed new self-regulatory body would be overseen by a government “Communications Regulator”.
Under the Review’s proposal, the regulator would approve industry codes or standards, define complaints procedure, direct enforcement in situations of breach, order investigations and implement an undefined “range of effective remedies” to ensure compliance.
The Newspaper Works says such far-reaching powers would undermine the concept of self regulation that is also promoted by the Convergence Review, and threatens press freedom.
Mark Hollands from The Newspaper Works expressed disappointment that improvements now being implemented at the Australian Press Council (APC) – including a doubling of funding – had not been given greater acknowledgement by the Review.
He said the Review’s concerns that publishers could pull out of the APC had now been negated by legally binding obligations signed by the publishers to commit to the APC and any withdrawal would take four years to complete.
The recommendation that all media content – print, digital, radio and TV – should be regulated by a self-regulatory body that was answerable to a Communications Regulator required robust debate given the differing approaches and methods of journalism.
Hollands said he was also concerned the independence of media would be compromised by the Review’s recommendation that the government part-finance a new industry body.
“The industry has undertaken extensive work to refinance and rejuvenate the Australian Press Council,” Hollands said.
“I am confident the new structure ensures full consideration of balance and fairness of reportage, plus the implementation of new journalism standards, while providing the elements of press freedom that are essential in a democracy.”